The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute staff and board of directors mourn the loss of our friend, Marion Burton of Little Rock, who passed away on the morning of January 27 at the age of 93.

Burton, a devoted ally of Institute staff and leadership alike, played an instrumental role in the creation and longevity of this special place and our mission as a nonprofit organization. We are honored to be planning a memorial service alongside his family, to whom we send our heartfelt condolences.

“Marion Burton changed the trajectory of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute,” Janet Harris, Institute executive director/CEO, said. “As the executive trustee of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust, he was a vital part of the Institute throughout our 19 years of existence. He shared his guidance on how the Institute could perpetuate Winthrop Rockefeller’s legacy, but just as memorably, he shared his stories about the late Governor and the decades they spent together with Marion serving as Winthrop’s chief of staff and personal pilot.”

Burton was a deep well of aeronautical, political, and personal knowledge regarding Arkansas and Winthrop Rockefeller. He took as much pleasure in sharing that history with our team as we did in listening. Expressing our gratitude for those experiences is challenging, and their absence is keenly felt.

Marion Burton

He was steadfast in his conviction that this slice of Petit Jean Mountain, which had been the heart of Winrock Farms, must continue to actively serve not only Winthrop’s legacy but the state of Arkansas and all who care for it as Winthrop did.

“Marion believed in the Institute’s potential and encouraged me and other leaders to think long-term about the impact we could make,” Harris continued. “He secured the future of the Institute by stewarding the creation of the Governor Winthrop Rockefeller Endowment in 2018, which ensures our basic operations are taken care of. We are forever grateful for his leadership, vision, and deep belief in the Institute.”

In addition to the $100 million endowment in 2018, held by the University of Arkansas Foundation, he went a step further and announced the Marion B. Burton Family Endowment gift of $1 million in 2021.

Marion Burton spent his life devoted to the power and practice of philanthropy, and he encouraged people to consider planned giving as part of their legacy so that their gifts can continue to make a difference long after they are gone. In that spirit, his family has graciously requested that those wishing to honor his memory make a gift to the Institute or to a charitable organization of their choosing. To make a gift to the Institute, please visit the online giving page and check the box “I would like to dedicate this gift.


  1. 1
    Jenifer Burton O’Connor on February 2, 2024

    Thank you for this moving tribute to my Dad. Our family is incredibly proud of his dedication to preserving Winthrop Rockerfeller’s legacy and purpose.

  2. 2
    Betty S. ward on February 14, 2024

    My husband (the late John L. Ward) and I thought the world of Marion Burton…so sorry to learn of his passing; prayers are being lifted for his entire family and friends.

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